Yevgeny Prigozhin: Unraveling the Enigma of the Plane Crash
The reported demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary leader, has sent shockwaves, as his name emerged on the passenger list of a private jet that tragically crashed north of Moscow, Russia’s capital.
Recognized as a significant ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin’s private military company played a pivotal role in the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
However, their association turned sour when Prigozhin orchestrated a daring rebellion against Russia’s military hierarchy in June, culminating in a day-long march on Moscow.
As details of the crash continue to emerge, here’s a snapshot of what we know so far:
The Aircraft Incident:
Russian aviation authorities verified that the aircraft, identified as an Embraer Legacy, was en route between Moscow and St Petersburg when it met a tragic end in the Tver region, situated north of Moscow, on a Wednesday evening.
Yet, the Wagner-linked Telegram channel known as “Grey Zone” reported a different narrative – alleging that the jet was shot down by the Russian military. However, no corroborating evidence was presented to substantiate this claim.
The private jet accommodated seven passengers and three crew members.
Preliminary information suggests that all 10 individuals on board tragically lost their lives. Reportedly, the Embraer Legacy, associated with one of Prigozhin’s entities, caught fire upon impact after being airborne for less than half an hour.
Verified video footage aired by the BBC depicted the harrowing sight of the aircraft plummeting from the skies in Kuzhenkino, Russia.
“Grey Zone” indicated that a second business jet owned by Prigozhin safely touched down in the Moscow region.
The Roster of Individuals:
The ill-fated private jet carried seven passengers, including Prigozhin and his close associate Dmitry Utkin, alongside Sergei Propustin, Yevgeny Makaryan, Alexander Totmin, Valery Chekalov, and Nikolai Matuseyev. The crew members on board were identified as Captain Alexei Levshin, co-pilot Rustam Karimov, and flight attendant Kristina Raspopova.
Prigozhin’s Recent Movements:
The private jet was reportedly en route from Moscow to St Petersburg before it met its tragic end approximately 60 miles north of the Russian capital.
Since his audacious rebellion against Russia’s military commanders, whom he openly criticized for their strategies in Ukraine, Prigozhin maintained a relatively discreet profile.
In a resolution to quell the uprising, charges against him were dropped, contingent on his relocation to Belarus. He did comply, albeit briefly and on his own terms.
In mid-July, a video surfaced on Telegram channels, purportedly showing Prigozhin welcoming fighters in Belarus. However, later in the same month, he was photographed in St Petersburg during the Africa-Russia summit.
In the past week, Prigozhin released his first video statement since the abortive rebellion in June, suggesting his presence in Africa. Notably, the authenticity of the video’s location remains unverified by the BBC.
Upon “Grey Zone’s” report of his passing, Russia’s aviation agency released a list, confirming the individuals on board the aircraft that tragically went down in the Tver region, just north of Moscow. Prigozhin’s name was on that list.
Russia’s investigative committee initiated a criminal inquiry, guided by Article 263 of the Russian criminal code, which addresses traffic safety and the operation of air transport.
Simultaneously, emergency services concluded their search of the crash site.
Reportedly, the governor of the Tver region, Igor Rudenya, has assumed control of the investigation, marking the next chapter in this unfolding saga.